Are Ethnic Enclaves Bad for Immigrants?
What reasonable New Yorker — or tourist — doesn’t love the city’s ethnic enclaves?
In addition to being great neighborhoods to visit or eat in, they also serve as important transition zones for millions of immigrants, places where they can ease into America while holding onto aspects of the old country.
But in certain cases, the level of segregation presents a serious downside: scholars say some ethnic enclaves discourage immigrants from learning English, and prevent them from getting decent jobs or much-needed social services.
Brigitte Waldorf, a scholar at Purdue University, has even helped quantify the enclave effect for immigrants from China and Mexico.
Her research suggested that a 35-year-old woman from China — married, living in the U.S. for five years, earning $25,000 a year, and without a high school degree — had a 28 percent chance of knowing English if she were the only Chinese speaker in a given neighborhood. But if she were to live in a Chinese enclave — say, 10 percent Chinese — the likelihood that she would speak English would drop dramatically: to 13.6 percent.
English, says Waldorf, is “an absolute must in American society in order to be fully integrated.”
Listen to the full Micropolis episode here.